Strategies For No-Tilling Short-Season Crops

No-tillers in the Northern Plains face many challenges, not the least of which is a short growing season. Average frost-free days range from 90 to 125 days.
 
“To put this in perspective, our climate is closer to that of Siberia than Nebraska,” says Mike Dick, who no-tills 3,500 acres near Munich, N.D. “We have to do a lot of work in 90 to 100 days, so the time savings of no-till farming is important.”
 
Dick grows predominantly cool-season crops such as spring wheat, durum, barley, canola, peas and flax.
 
“To grow these crops no-till, we have had to tinker, adapt and work with manufacturers over the years to improve seeding equipment,” says Dick, who is past president of the Manitoba-North Dakota Zero-Tillage Farmers Association. “You’ll find a vast array of equipment designs on the farms of our association members.
 
“Many no-tillers began by modifying existing hoe or double-disc press drills or by purchasing Haybuster, Yielder or Noble drills. Today, air-delivery technology is very common.”
 

Residue Challenges

Dick says there is still a lot of discussion among growers as to whether a disc- or hoe-type opener is better.
 
“To date, the hoe opener is winning with most Northern-based manufacturers, such as Concord and Flexi-Coil,” says Dick. “But depending on the amount of soil disturbance one is prepared to deal with, there are several options available.”
 
Sweep-style hoe openers provide the most disturbance and provide some me­chan­ical weed control. Spoon-type openers don’t disturb as much soil but still remove residue from the…
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